LAF Express — October 2013

AAUW Mourns the Passing of Jacqueline Livingston, One of the Cornell 11

In 1981, a group of women from Cornell University asked AAUW for help in their discrimination lawsuit against Cornell. The group claimed that Cornell had violated anti-discrimination laws by denying them tenure in favor of less-qualified candidates. Heeding the call to support gender equality, AAUW stepped forward to help, and the Legal Advocacy Fund was born. The group eventually won a settlement from Cornell, and the women became known as the Cornell 11. One of those women was artist and professor Jacqueline Louise Barrett Livingston Brisette. Livingston died this past June. We celebrate her work as an artist and an activist, and we honor her legacy through LAF’s ongoing pursuit of equality. Learn more from AAUW Archivist Suzanne Gould’s fascinating profile of the Cornell 11, available on our website.

Do You Know Your Rights?

What would you do if you faced discrimination or harassment? Legal advocacy begins with workers and students who know their rights in the workplace and on campus. The LAF section of the AAUW website offers a wealth of easy-to-understand information about your legal rights. Explore our new LAF Employee Rights and Information Center through the Know Your Rights at Work resource page, and learn about the laws that govern your rights in the workplace. Go to Know Your Rights on Campus to learn about your rights as a student, student athlete, or faculty member. You can also find information about the process of filing a discrimination complaint and where to go for legal assistance. AAUW members can be the first line of defense to protect workers and students from discrimination. As parents, friends, co-workers, and teachers, we can educate others about their rights, their responsibilities, and the ways LAF can help. Know your rights!

Federal Circuit Rules in Favor of Veterans Seeking Disability Benefits after Sexual Assaults

In an encouraging step for survivors of military sexual assault, a federal appeals court recently ruled that a veteran’s failure to report a sexual assault is not evidence that the assault did not occur. In AZ v. Shinseki and AY v. Shinseki, two veterans sought disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder that they said stemmed from sexual assaults they suffered while on active duty. Because the veterans did not file complaints at the time the alleged assaults occurred, their service records did not contain any mention of the assaults. Relying on the veterans’ failure to report as evidence that the assaults never occurred, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims denied disability benefits.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the “VA may not treat a claimant’s failure to report an alleged sexual assault to military authorities as pertinent evidence that the sexual assault did not occur.” The court recognized that “many service members fear that the act of reporting a rape to military authorities will subject them to personal and professional reprisals.” While other courts are not required to follow it, the ruling is promising. The Federal Circuit’s ruling recognizes the real barriers to justice faced by survivors of military sexual assault. AAUW is working to break down those barriers by supporting the lawsuits of survivors and supporting legislation to improve the military’s handling of sexual assaults. Join us!

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to LAF to help balance the scales of justice for women.

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